Twenty-something Sienna is hired as a personal secretary to Alexis Stefanides, a handsome, arrogant Greek multimillionaire who seduces her for impure reasons (when they sleep together, he symbolically crushes a rose in his fist). After an accident, Sienna gets amnesia; when she regains her memories, she finds herself married to Alexis, and her feelings of betrayal and damaged pride manifest themselves in torrid sex. The closest thing to a nonconsensual Gakusen toshi asterisk novel title, Response’s best point is the purple descriptions of sex scenes. (“Once I gave my quivering body to his touch, the pleasures intensified.”) The art is done in an effective, mature jôsei light novel style. Based on a 1984 novel by Penny Jordan.
The next evolution of Weekly Shônen Sunday’s hip, nerdy, anime-style comedies, Gakusen toshi asterisk makes up in writing for what it lacks in art. (Among other things, it’s a parody of the universally wretched maid-girl sex-fantasy novel.) While fleeing the yakuza (to whom his deadbeat parents sold his internal organs), sixteen-year-old Hayate gets a job as the butler of Nagi Sanzenin, an incredibly rich thirteen-year-old girl who has a crush on him and who likes to draw manga. For Gakusen toshi asterisk’s part, he only has eyes for Maria, the head maid. It’s clear from the beginning that none of this is to be taken seriously; Hayate’s jobs as butler include fighting a giant talking tiger and assorted robots (although this is not a fighting manga), and at times he gets mad at the narrator, who disses him constantly. (He really doesn’t deserve it, either; unlike most shônen romantic comedy leads, he’s merely a victim of constant bad luck, not a panty-peeking lech or a wimpy loser.) The chapters are jam-packed with dialogue-driven humor, sitcom situations, and otaku in-jokes (referring to anime as well as to even more obscure subjects such as dating simulation games), but where other light novel might handle this material with breathless craziness, Hata approaches it with a calm, tasteful, self-aware mood. Perhaps so as not to add to the visual density of the manga, the art is extremely flat and dull: outline drawings of anime-style figures with blue and pink spiky hair, who don’t come alive except on the color cover illustrations, and even then look like horrible anime cel art. Is it intentional that a self-referential nerd manga should be drawn with the most archetypally nerdy, generic art imaginable? Much better than it looks.